Nick Baumgartner

Nick Baumgartner earns Olympic spot over Seth Wescott

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Nick Baumgartner cried. A fourth-grade class at Stambaugh Elementary School screamed.

Baumgartner was named to his second U.S. Olympic Team on Friday, beating out two-time Olympic champion Seth Wescott for the final spot on the men’s snowboard cross team going to Sochi.

U.S. coaches told Baumgartner he had been selected at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., after he and Wescott were eliminated in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon.

Baumgartner then called Stambaugh Elementary in Iron River, Mich., where he was connected to his 9-year-old son, Landon, to spread the word.

“I was crying,” Baumgartner said. “Losing it.”

He quickly got a call back from the school, which wanted confirmation because Landon was being coy about the news. Baumgartner obliged, and he could hear the classroom’s reaction on the other end of the line.

It capped a stressful two weeks for Baumgartner, who was the top U.S. rider not to earn automatic qualification onto the Olympic Team during the World Cup season.

Three other men did, leaving one spot for the U.S. team to fill as a discretionary selection with either Baumgartner or Wescott, who was coming back from April ACL surgery.

Wescott finished 49th and 31st in his first two races back two weeks ago, but was thought to still be a Sochi candidate given he’s the only Olympic champion men’s snowboard cross has ever known.

The Winter X Games were seen as a last chance for both riders to impress selectors.

Wescott competed in Friday’s quarterfinals first, finishing fifth where the top three advanced. Baumgartner watched Wescott’s race at the top of the hill on a TV screen, cheering for him. He admires Wescott, but at the same time seeing the result put him at ease.

Ten minutes later, Baumgartner set out on his quarterfinal and also finished fifth. He was dissatisfied with his performance in the immediate aftermath, but, after making the Olympic Team, said he felt good overall.

“I was happy with my riding again here,” Baumgartner said. “I thought I rode really well, really smart and going for it. That’s what it takes to win.”

Baumgartner was still teary eyed from talking to his son when he made eye contact with Wescott for the first time after the Olympic announcement.

“[Wescott] came up, gave me a big hug and said congrats,” Baumgartner said. “He’s a role model for me. I think he should be for everyone.”

In 2010, Baumgartner accomplished his goal of making the Olympic Team. His sights are set higher this year, given he’s won X Games gold and silver since the Vancouver Games.

“Half the goal was to make the team,” Baumgartner said. “Now my goal is winning a medal and bringing it back to Michigan.”

Baumgartner joins Alex DeiboldNate Holland and Trevor Jacob on the men’s Olympic Team. The women’s team has not been announced yet, but it will include Lindsey Jacobellis and at most two more riders.

Wescott, 37, has said he will continue to compete with an eye on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. He would be the oldest snowboarder in Olympic history if he’s able to do so.

Jacobellis breaks X Games record

Simone Biles becomes honorary Houston Texans cheerleader

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The NFL’s Houston Texans may not be having the greatest season on the football field, but that hasn’t stopped one famous diehard fan from cheering them on.

On Sunday, Simone Biles took her fandom to the next level by debuting as an honorary Texans cheerleader before the team’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

game day feels ❤️ so excited to dance at the Houston Texans Game!

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officially ready for game day now that I got my legendary red boots 🏈

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As an added bonus, she also found time to take a few photos with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-foot center who once starred for the Houston Rockets.

This isn’t the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has teamed up with her hometown Texans. In 2016, Biles had the honor of announcing one of the team’s draft picks, and in 2015, she made this memorable entrance onto the field after a pre-game introduction.

Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

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Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.